NATHAN Cleary has declared he wants to lead the Blues for the next decade with the Penrith son-of-a-gun hoping to become the first long term NSW No.7 since Andrew Johns.
Speaking at the NSW emerging player’s camp at ANZ Stadium yesterday, Cleary said he was ready to make the jump into the State of Origin furnace this year.
And the playmaking sensation vowed to hold onto the coveted jersey for 10 years should he earn selection.
“I definitely hope I can get there this year,’’ Cleary said.
“But that is up to me and the way I start the season. I think at the moment I am not 100 per cent ready but if I get a good start to the season I will be ready to step up.’’
Cleary, touted as a bolter for this year’s series, is seen by many as the long-term solution to NSW’s recent history of playmaking woes.
The Blues have had 19 different halves combinations since 2006.
“It is certainly the goal to be there long term,’’ Cleary said.
“It has been difficult to watch when Queensland have such great stability with (Johnathan) Thurston and (Cooper) Cronk. Being in the halves is a tough gig and you take the blame but that is the responsibility I am willing to take on.’’
Cleary, son of Wests Tigers coach Ivan, is a passionate NSW supporter despite living in Auckland for 11 years.
“It was on a bit later when we lived in NZ,’’ Cleary said.
“But Dad would always wake me up to cheer them on. I have always loved it and something I have dreamed of being part of. And now to be at this emerging camp It is a great honour. To get the opportunity to work with guys like Freddie and Joey is awesome.’’
Cleary will team up with incumbent NSW No.6 James Maloney at the Panthers after the former Shark made an off-season switch to Penrith.
“He has only been there a week,’’ Cleary said.
“But already in that week he has been very helpful. I think as the year progresses I will learn a lot from him and I am really looking forward to that.
“I am looking forward to seeing what sort of combination we form because he has won comps, played Origin and done everything in the game. I will picking him apart to learn his game. I think he will be calm on the field and that will filter down to me.’’
Cleary distanced himself from the constant speculation over his future at the Panthers.
“I am 100 per cent happy at Penrith,’’ Cleary said.
“I have spoken about anything else. I am contracted for the next two years so I am happy at the moment and don’t want to go anywhere else.’’